Two ex-Navy buddies are living a life of leisure on a South Pacific island until they are interrupted by a prim Bostonian in search of her father. — Genre: Feature Film-Comedy — Rating: NR — Release Date: 28-MAR-2006 — Media T... more »ype: DVD« less
Chrystine H. from CREIGHTON, MO Reviewed on 12/9/2021...
Wonderful story. Hadnâ��t seen this one of John Wayneâ��s movies.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michelle H. (snoozemouse) from CHEYENNE, WY Reviewed on 6/6/2010...
I just love this movie, John Wayne was a wonderful actor no matter what type of roll he had.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Watch this one for the performances!
abt1950 | usa | 08/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Donovan's Reef" is a strange hybrid of a movie. On the one hand, it's a vehicle for John Wayne to show off with the rest of the very talented cast. On the other, it's also a morality play about racism, set on a lush, (and distant) South Pacific island, but very relevant to the United States of the early 1960s. In these days of multiracial awareness, the latter aspect seems a bit dated, and talk about "half caste [non-white] children" is quaint. Cliches and cultural stereotypes abound, but in its time "Donovan's Reef" was a progressive and even (as another reviewer has called it) "subversive" movie. The beautiful exotic setting no doubt made the message of racial equality more palatable to the mainstream American audience of the day.Today, however, the movie endures primarily because of the strength of the cast and the characters they create. A young Lee Marvin plays the brawling Gilhooley and Cesar Romero the pleasantly oily French governor. The Asian actor who plays the governor's aide is truly splendid. His name should be up in the main credits along with the stars. Although there is not a weak performance among the lot, my favorite moments are the exchanges between Wayne and Elizabeth Allen, his foil and romantic interest. She plays the supposedly straitlaced Bostonian and he the salty ex-pat bar owner. Both are strong characters, and they give each other as good as they get. On the negative side, the narrative is sometimes disjointed, as if the movie tries to be too much in too little time. It's as if too much film ended up on the cutting room floor. A pity, because if what was edited out is of the same caliber as what was left in, some rare moments have been lost. Too bad John Ford isn't around to do a "director's cut." "Donovan's Reef" may not be a great movie, but it sure is fun to watch."
Last Ford/Wayne Teaming a Lighthearted, Brawling Comedy...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 11/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What do you do when you're a workaholic 68-year-old director, and your doctor orders you to take a vacation? Well, if you are John Ford, you grab John Wayne and your 'Stock Company' of actors, jaunt off to Kauai, the "Flower Isle" of Hawaii, and make "Donovan's Reef", a old-fashioned, brawling comedy! While the film was certainly not 'top-drawer' for either the director or star, it is a pleasant diversion, and would mark the final 'film' teaming of the legendary pair.
"Donovan's Reef", equal parts "South Pacific", "Hawaii", "What Price Glory?", and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", was already 'nostalgic', by the time it was made, as so many actors who would have been Ford 'naturals' in key roles had passed away, or were too old to play the characters believably. Thus you have Lee Marvin instead of Victor McLaglen, Jack Warden in a 'Ward Bond' role, and Elizabeth Allen in a part 'tailor-made' for a younger Maureen O'Hara. Even Wayne, himself, at 56, seems a bit 'long-in-the-tooth' for the physical demands of his role (challenging the 32-year-old Allen in a swimming race?), as well as the romance (a fact that even the Duke would agree with; this would mark the last time he would play a romantic lead, 'winning' an actress so much younger). Also, knowing that in less than two years Wayne would lose a lung to cancer, one winces at the number of cigarettes he lights up, throughout the film. "Donovan's Reef" was certainly geared to an earlier time and sensibility.
All this being said, if you can leave 21st century wisdom about tobacco and alcohol abuse "at the door", the film is a treat, with postcard images of Hawaii, Lee Marvin, an 'over-the-top' joy as Wayne's drunken buddy/adversary (tuning up for his Oscar-winning role in "Cat Ballou"), hilarious support from Cesar Romero as the lecherous Governor/General, and Dorothy Lamour (who'd starred in Ford's classic South Seas adventure, "The Hurricane"), as a husband-hungry chanteuse, and, in memorable bit roles, Duke's son, Patrick, Edgar Buchanan, Dick Foran, and Mike Mazurki.
I truly wish there WERE a "Donovan's Reef" in our world...it's the kind of place where I'd want to live!"
William R. Hancock | Travelers Rest, S.C. United States | 06/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are days when things just don't go right. Business doesn't hit on all cylinders, or something in one's personal life is out of alignment. Irritation can set in. Frustration. Just plain old down-in-the-dumps mopeyness.
There ARE things that can be done about this, especially if you have a VHS or DVD player. You can pop in any number of good movies and use your scene selector to get you to that "special part" that just warms your heart and chases your blues away. You can watch the end of "Shenandoah" from the point where Jimmy Stewart goes to the family cemetery to talk to his wife Martha, on through to the arrival of "the boy" in the middle of Sunday preaching. Or you can watch James Cagney as George M. Cohan get his Medal of Honor from FDR in "Yankee Doodle Dandy", tap dance down the White House steps and join in the troop parade down Pennsylvania Avenue singing "Over There". Or you can scene-select to the Von Trapp family singing "Edelweiss" as a farewell appearance at the Salzburg Music Festival in "The Sound of Music" and then follow them across the alps into Switzerland at the close to that fine film. OR , if the season is right, you can quick jump to the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont, in time to see retired General "Tom Waverly"(Dean Jagger) get sandbagged by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and company at the surprise reunion of the "151st Division" at the end of "White Christmas".
OR...you can plug in "Donovans Reef" and just sit back and LET THE WHOLE THING ROLL!!!!! Because from the first moment of the opening credits, when the delightful, infectious musical rendition of "Pupa O Ewa" ("Pearly Shells") cranks up...until the very end of the film...when "Pupa O Ewa" is cranking again...you can just leave your "doldrums" behind.
A "downer" mentality cannot stand up to "Donovan's Reef" for long.
This 1963 "swan song" for the collaborative filmmaking team of John Ford and John Wayne is one of the most enjoyable light comedies ever put to film. There are many movie aficionadoes who love Grant & Hepburn in "Bringing Up Baby" , Hepburn & Tracy in "Adam's Rib" and such, and you can't "diss" classics like "Some Like It Hot" and numerous Doris Day vehicles. But me, I say "Donovan's Reef" belongs up there with the best of them.
There's not a lot of snappy repartee here, but that doesn't matter. Neither does the fact that it seems almost a case of "Let's make this up as we go along" moviemaking. "Hmmmm. This is a Paramount Picture", set in the South Pacific...Hey!!!...let's get Dorothy Lamour for it!!!!!". However it was conceived and put together...IT WORKS!!
It is a broad, boozy, knuckleheaded comedy that works because it has really good actors in it, having a really good time, turning out a story full of heart...all under the guidance of one of Hollywood's greatest directors.
John Wayne is Michael "Guns' Donovan , bar owner of "Donovan's Reef"...a place Jimmy Buffet would surely like to visit. Lee Marvin is Donovan's old war buddy "Boats" Gilhooly, who is his rival in "most everything". They fight a lot, especially since they share the same birthday and neither likes to share. Some of the staged "altercations" between them smack of Wayne vs. McGlaglen in "The Quiet Man". Jack Warden is the local missionary doctor, a widower twice over, who has three children by a polynesian wife (royalty), and one older daughter from his first marraige in America.
Island frivolities get sidetracked when word comes that the older daughter (a "proper Bostonian") is coming to see her father (on a covert investigatory mission to see if a will can be broken). Suspecting this daughter, Amelia (Elizabeth Allen), might be a racist who might hurtfully interact with her mixed race siblings, Wayne & company stage a "switcheroo" con on Ms. Dedham from Boston...one which represents the Duke ("Guns") as their father and not "The Doc".
The course of the film is about establishing the con and then maintaining it. They fail in this, but it turns out not to matter. Amelia is not entirely the prig they take her to be...and by the end of the movie she is no prig at all.
This is a fun movie to watch and experience. The cast is uniformly great. Cesar Romero is a hoot as the French colonial governor, as is John Fong as his assistant. Mike Mazurki is funny as a local gendarme and Marcel Dalio evokes his own share of chuckles as the island priest. The children are played quite well by Jacqueline Malouf, Cherylene Lee, and Tim Stafford. Jacqueline Malouf, in particular, is appealingly winsome as Leilani, the eldest of the three island children and the heir to her mother's throne. A scene near the end of the film where Amelia realizes Leilani is her sister and overturns "the con" is absolutely...exhiliratingly...heart warming.
Is this a feel-good movie? You betcha. A "South Seas" state of mind caught on quite strongly in the early 1960s. This trend had three basic points of origin...the play and film version of "South Pacific", a very popular television series called "Adventures In Paradise", and good old "Donovan's Reef".
Three good deals, all the way around.
As for Duke's end of the deal,this DVD edition of "Reef" is just beautiful. The sound is superb, as is the image transfer. The colors of Hawaii come out gloriously in this...as one would expect when the lens work was done by William Clothier, one of the greatest of all Hollywood cinematographers. And Cyril Mockridge's musical scoring is sublime, especially his choice to feature "Pupa O Ewa" extensively in the movie. That song gets under your skin and STAYS there...and will often come back to stick in your mind when you are nowhere near a television set or DVD player.
"Donovan's Reef" ...or "Gilhooly's Reef"...makes no nevermind to me. I love it just the same. Thanks Duke, and thanks Mr. Ford. We owe you."
GETS BETTER WITH EACH PASSING YEAR
Crabby Apple Mick Lee | INDIANAPOLIS, IN USA | 04/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Professional movie reviewers and published guides do not rate Donovan's Reef very high. More than a few seem to look down their noses at this light comedy. But I have always liked it. Nothing about this movie is supposed to be taken seriously with the sole exception of its subtle rejection of racism. (Some may nitpick about certain depictions of the "non-whites"; but only the hard hearted would fail to notice that the "whites" come off as essentially foolish as well.) At the center is the battle of the sexes between Wayne and Elizabeth Allen-each side getting its share of victories and comeuppances. All the characters are likable and the writing is sharp and witty.Of special enjoyment is the Christmas Pageant in the leaky chapel. I have never been able to think about the "three wise men" of the Christmas story without this scene coming to mind. The Polynesian ceremony at the end of the film is also humorous as well as touching.The setting is supposed to be French Polynesia but everything about the film from the scenery to the people suggests Hawaii. No matter. This is simply a great "little" comedy. Watch it some lazy Sunday afternoon and it will make your day."
A Subversive Masterpiece!
Crabby Apple Mick Lee | 05/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don't let the surface fool you. Donovan's Reef is a Renoiresque comedy of manners (that is to say, a comedy of serious matters) that explores the psyche of old warriors (WWII vets) languishing in an island paradise. Ford evokes the familiar terrain of his 1937 classic "The Hurricane" and Murnau's "Tabu", to revisit the theme of island morality in a larger world gone wrong. It's as if the despairing sailors of "They Were Expendable" had stayed and fought their own war, survived, and tried to come to grips with the cataclysm. Gilhooley (Marvin) and Donovan (Wayne) get together every year on their mutual birthday (December 7th) for the purpose of a brawl celebrating some obscure rift between the two of them which neither can remember. Whether they fought over some girl, or ritualistically celebrate America's entry into WWII, Ford lets us know that these guys are stuck in a kind of limbo. As in Renoir, the comedy is broad enough to be symbolic, and the arrival of an old buddy's daughter looking for her lost father is enough of a catalyst to shake things up. The intrusion of the larger world, with Ford's hilarious send up of "Boston Manners" forces the island's inhabitants into a dehumanizing charade. Doc Dedham (Warden) must acknowledge his "white" daughter Amelia, while hiding the existence of his island children, who are in fact the true aristocrats of the island. The picture closes with a beautiful sequence (virtually silent) where Amelia, realizing the subterfuge she has brought to life, pays homage and accepts her half sister, healing the rift between the racist, patronizing outside world and the gods of the island.As with many Ford pictures, details that seem tossed off or incidental are part of a stylistic shorthand that is coded into all of his movies, and which reaches an extreme of poetic compression in his last films. People who approach "Donovan's Reef" without prejudices (the least of which may be a kneejerk reaction to John Wayne) may be surprised."